This week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Something They Need,” bounced back from last week’s clunker of an episode and put the series back on track as it heads into next week’s season finale, which we know from showrunner Scott Gimple will include “losses” and “betrayal.”
Here’s where we stand heading into the finale after an episode that jumped back and forth between several communities:
The Hilltop has been in holding pattern for most of season 7B. In this week’s episode, it continued to dance around the point of contention: Maggie and Gregory cannot continue to coexist on The Hilltop. Gregory feels threatened by Maggie, as well he should be. Maggie has gained the respect and admiration of the community; she has shown them how to garden; she has trained them to fight; and she saved The Hilltop earlier this season from walkers the Saviors sent through the wall.
Meanwhile, Gregory appears to do little other than to drink. He runs from fights; he can’t protect even himself from walkers (much less the rest of the community), and even his one strength — an ability to negotiate with the Saviors — has proven to be an unremarkable asset after he lost Dr. Carson last week. On the other hand, Maggie needs Gregory at least as a figurehead because she cannot present herself as leader of The Hilltop to the Saviors, who think she is dead.
This week, Gregory attempted to murder Maggie, but not only did he chicken out, he had to rely on Maggie to save him from a walker. Gregory clearly recognizes that he’s lost his people to Maggie, but instead of supporting the resistance from the sidelines, Gregory has decided to travel to the Sanctuary and meet with Simon, which will not only put Maggie and the rest of the Hilltop in danger, but will probably cost him his life, Why? Because Negan — for all his bluster about loyalty — is no fan of snitches (see also: Spencer). Negan presumably believes that if someone can’t be loyal to his own people, then he’d never be loyal to Negan. He’s probably right. Gregory may be next week’s sneaky death, and I am here for it.
Rick and his crew spend most of their time this week at The Oceanside, where they manage to secure the arsenal inside the walls of the community using several of those explosives they stole from the Saviors in the midseason premiere. However, they are not able to convince the Oceansiders to join them in battle. It isn’t for lack of trying, however. After putting down a few dozen zombies, Rick and Co. illustrate that they are capable of taking on The Saviors, but the Oceanside leader, Natania, refuses to allow her community to join the fight, having already lost too many people to the Saviors. “We’re not fighting them with you, so take your damn guns and go!”
Before the All Out War with Negan begins in earnest, however, expect Cyndie and a few others to join Alexandria. Some within the Oceanside are itching to fight, and I don’t think Natania can prevent them from doing so.
If not, however, the All-Out War should at least have a sweet coda when Tara — assuming she survives — returns to the Oceanside to deliver their guns back to them at the end of next season. It would be an even more poignant, though heartbreaking postscript, if Tara delivers the guns and news of Cyndie’s heroic death.
Meanwhile, back in Alexandria, Rick and Daryl are met with an unexpected surprise. As we predicted last week, the shadowy figure who emerged near Rosita was Dwight. He returned with Rosita because he wants to help Rick turn on Negan. Daryl is not, however, happy to see Dwight, and Rick has to prevent Daryl from beating Dwight to death.
It’s going to take more than Dwight’s word, however, to convince Rick he can be trusted. As the episode ends, Rick has a gun pointed at Dwight and asks him to get on his knees. Dwight is going to need to do some fast talking to get out of this jam. Ironically, the one man mostly likely to save him is Daryl. It’s Dwight’s wife, Sherry, who released Daryl from the cell in The Sanctuary, and if Dwight can impart that information before Rick shoots him in the head, Dwight could play a crucial role as inside man in the All Out War against Negan next season.
The Kingdom and The Junkyard
We saw neither The Kingdom nor The Junkyard this week, but expect The Junkyard to make at least a brief appearance next week when Rick brings them the guns he promised (stolen from the Oceanside) and the Junkyard gang officially agrees to join in the war against Negan.
Meanwhile, Carol and Morgan are still primed and ready to fight, while Ezekiel has agreed to join the alliance with Rick. We’ve seen Daryl and Carol’s reunion; in the season finale, we should finally see the reunion of Carol and Rick, too.
The episode’s most intense storyline this week took place inside the Sanctuary, where Negan has Sasha held prisoner in the hopes of turning her into a Savior. (The episode skipped past her capture and went straight to her imprisonment.) During their initial encounter, Negan not only demonstrates that he’s not all bad by preventing one of his men from raping Sasha, he explains why he and the Saviors aren’t that much different from Rick and the Alexandrians. Their leadership styles differ, but they’re after the same thing: survival. Negan wants Sasha to join his effort.
Eugene, meanwhile, confirms our worst fears: There’s no long con behind his decision to join The Saviors. He did it to because he was scared; he did it to survive. Eugene has enough backwoods charm to explain why it made sense for him in a surprisingly poignant moment. It’s hard to stay mad at him for selling out his people, too. Most of us would have done the exact same thing, and that’s why — if Eugene survives the war — he will eventually be welcomed back into Alexandria.
“I believed that I could be brave,” Eugene told Sasha. “That I could be a survivor like Abraham was… but I know now that I was full tilt delusional. I have never in my life been as scared as I was that night in the woods, fully believing that my number was about to be called. Seeing that happen to someone brave? To a survivor? And then the pants-pissing terror of the rinse and repeat of that very same event? I just … couldn’t. Being here means I’ll never have to again.”
For her part, Sasha couldn’t bring herself to join Negan and the Saviors, but she also knows there’s no escape for her. Sasha tries to trick Eugene into giving her a weapon by telling him that she will use it to kill herself (although, her original plan was to use it to kill Negan), but Eugene inadvertently outsmarts her by giving her that poison pill he had originally created to use on Negan. Sasha is now faced with an impossible choice: Join Negan and let him use her against Rick or end her own life.
— Whenever the show returns to the shipwreck near the Oceanside Community, I am struck with a sudden fear that the Fear the Walking Dead crossover episode is finally upon us. I can’t imagine a worse scenario. It would be nice, however, if we got some answers about the wrecked ship.
— Is the “little birdie” that warned Negan that Rick was up to something Gregory via Simon? I don’t know who else it could be (Eugene’s abduction predates Rick’s plans to “rise up).”
— Not only did Sasha’s abduction take place offscreen, but so did Rosita’s conversation with Dwight in which she agreed to bring to Alexandria the guy she witnessed kill Denise. How did that conversation go? Dwight: “I’m ready to fight for Rick now!” Rosita: “Cool! Let’s go.”
— Three of the show’s best characters are now on the side of the Saviors: Negan, Eugene and Simon. If they unload rat-faced Jared, it’s a group that’s going to be harder to root against. Too bad Fat Joe is not around anymore to help tilt the scales. (R.I.P. Fat Joe.)
— My hunch is that next week, while Negan is out of the Sanctuary dealing with Rick’s uprising, someone — perhaps Maggie, following Gregory — will break into the Sanctuary to rescue Sasha, but they will have arrived too late. Eugene said it would take 20-30 minutes for the poison pill to kill Sasha. I expect Maggie will show up during that interim only to watch Sasha die, but not before she delivers a heartbreaking goodbye.